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HASTAC 2010: Making Sense of Learning Digitally: Youth Engagement and New Media in North America

The HASTAC 2010 conference, Grand Challenges and Global Innovations, was held online from April 15 17. I am reporting on the session, Making Sense of Learning Digitally: Youth Engagement and New Media in North America, which consisted of four videos presented by Ching-Chiu Lin, Betram "Chip" Bruce, Juan Carlos Castro, Kit Grauer, Anita Sinner, Leanne Levy, and Sandra Weber. Each of these videos reported on projects where youth were encouraged to learn and explore self through the creation of  art and digital media.

The four videos and their authors are as follows:

  • Using Art and Photography with Pregnant Teens and Young Moms in Community
    Leanne Levy and Sandra Weber
  • Engaging Diverse Learners in a Community-based New Media Art Program
    Kit Grauer, Ching Chiu Lin, Anita Sinner
  •  Youth Community Informatics
    Betram Chip Bruce
  • An Inquiry into Knowing, Learning, and Teaching Art through New and Social Media
    Juan Carlos Castro

Using Art and Photography with Pregnant Teens and Young Moms in Community
Leanne Levy and Sandra Weber

Levy and Webers video, Using Art and Photography with Pregnant Teens and Young Moms in Community, commented on a program where pregnant teens and teen moms were encouraged to create visual arts as a study of self with social critique in the interest, not only understanding ones own situation, but also helping others in similar circumstances. Teens participated in three art activities:

  • A collage that conveyed each artists perspective on what it means to be a mom. Each collage also included a letter to the teens child  affixed to the back of the canvas.
  • Body writing where each teen wrote on her own body, the body of other teens in the program, or on her child(ren). Photos were also taken. The writing consisted of pictograms and text that expressed the teens thoughts and feelings about her present situation.
  • A photo album with short narratives about each photo. Each teen was asked to select only 9 photos out of hundreds they might have taken. In this way, teens were encouraged to think selectively about what truly represents her lived experience.

The culmination of the program was an art exhibit including blogs and other narratives of the teens experiences. The works contained in the exhibit radiated the love and caring each teen had for her children.

One teen commented that the creation of art in this way really helped her work through her depression. Another teen felt it was important for others to know that a child is not a doll that you can discard when youre tired. Being a mom is hard its a serious, life-long commitment that you enter into with little preparation.  Another teen said that its important not to play the victim and blame others and external situations for ones own situation. Essentially, she pointed out that you are what you make of yourself.

Engaging Diverse Learners in a Community-based New Media Art Program
Kit Grauer, Ching Chiu Lin, Anita Sinner

Engaging Diverse Learners in a Community-based New Media Art Program reported on the GIFTS (The Gulf Islands Film and Television School) program to provide a space and place to engage in an increasingly mediated and complex world alongside media professionals. Youth were encouraged to create short videos as a means of self-expression, to spark creativity, to engage in critical analysis, and to develop identity and voice.

The teaching approach (hands off and decentralized) used for this project was touted as an alternative to what one might see in a traditional classroom. The hope was to determine how this type of teaching/learning might impact young peoples and teachers understandings and beliefs about identity, voice, education, citizenship, community and how it might impact communities. Further, the authors hoped this project would help them explore teaching/learning issues such as course design, implementation, and assessment as well as uncover any implications this specific approach might have for teacher education and educational policy.

Students commented that the openness and fluidity of this approach was advantageous. Teachers acted more as mentors, offering a sounding board for ideas and giving students the freedom to self-direct and explore.

Youth Community Informatics
Betram Chip Bruce

Similar to these other projects, Bruces Youth Community Informatics focused on informal learning and learning between schools and universities, also known as border learning. The goal was to provide youth with opportunities for media engagement so they can make sense of their experiences, help communities, and impact the world around them. Som examples of activities included computer refurbishment and using GPS to make maps.

The Inquiry Cycle of ask, investigate, create, discuss, and reflect served as the guiding framework for this teaching/learning experience. Betram believes the local community itself is a fertile ground for learning endeavors; and that by using the community as course content, it helps youth make more connections between theory and practice than what might be possible in a traditional classroom. The learning itself is seen as having greater relevance when learning activities have direct impact on the outside world.

An Inquiry into Knowing, Learning, and Teaching Art through New and Social Media
Juan Carlos Castro

Castros An Inquiry into Knowing, Learning, and Teaching Art through New and Social Media provided an opportunity for youth to create visual art using new media and to share their work and receive commentary and inspiration from other participants via a social networking site. Castro drew on two theories for this work: contemporary new media art and complexity thinking. Some of his aims were to

  • encourage participant relationships with collective knowledge systems by working with images and text,
  • foster the emergence of new activities and thinking as a result of collective action, something not afforded to the individual alone,
  • capitalize on social networks as a support for such collective activities,
  • and inspire a negotiation of self (identity), defined as coherent patterns of activity through space, place, and time.

The curriculum was iteratively designed. Each week, Castro would assess student learning and growth through interviews with students and evaluation of their progress and then use the results of such assessment to inform the next phase of the project. He discovered that learning often occurred when students were able to observe each others progress and when they encountered differences in their perspectives.

The decentralized network approach allowed students greater opportunity to connect with and respond to each other. Because no single individual was dictating content and direction, the course content took on a life of its own, arising organically through contact amongst participants. For instance, one participant, after pondering the ease of Western life and how this compares to countries with less wealth and opportunity, issued a challenge to the others to create art about something they take for granted. Castro also noted a situation where a more technically advanced student was inspired to create an image in response to another made by a less technically advanced student. From what Castro describes, it seems that this was a very dialogic process that capitalized on drawing inspiration from peers.

 

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